March 31 is Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far women have to work this year to catch up to what men made last yearWomen working full time, year round are typically paid only 82 cents for every dollar paid to men, which adds up to a loss of $407,760 over a 40-year career. For Black women, Latinas, and Native women, it’s nearly or over $1 million. 

But that number doesn’t tell the whole story, particularly as we find ourselves in the midst of a global pandemic with devastating health and economic consequences for so many. Women are on the frontlines of defense against COVID-19 and its devastating consequences, whether as the first responders and people providing essential services – like those in child care, health care, and grocery stores  as well as over-represented in the industries shedding jobs as a result of the public health crisis – like restaurants, retail, and hotels. For example, 93 percent of child care workers, 66 percent of grocery store cashiers/salespeople70 percent of waiters and waitresses, and 77 percent of clothing/shoe stores cashiers/salespeople are women. Many of the workers in those jobs are women of colorfor example, a majority of home healthcare and personal care aides, maids and housekeepers in traveler accommodations, and clothing and shoe store cashiers are women of color.  

Many of those occupations are low paid and often fail to provide access to critical supports like paid leave, employer-sponsored health insurance, and child care. Lost earnings due to the gender wage gap are exacerbating the effects of COVID-19 for many women and women of color in these low-paid jobs — and for the families who depend on their income. Forty-one percent of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinners in their families, and they typically make only 69 cents on the dollar compared to fathers. 

Examples of frontline occupations   
  Percent of workers who are women  Percent of women workers who are WOC  Percent of women workers who are Black  Percent of women workers who are Latina 
Child care workers  93%  44%  14%  24% 
Grocery store cashiers/salespeople  66%  43%  13%  22% 
Home health and personal care aides  85%  59%  27%  22% 
Registered nurses  88%  30%  12%  7% 
 
Examples of industries shedding workers 
  Percent of workers who are women  Percent of women workers who are WOC  Percent of women workers who are Black  Percent of women workers who are Latina 
Waiters and waitresses  70%  39%  9%  20% 
Clothing/shoe stores cashiers/salespeople  77%  51%  17%  26% 
Hotel, motel desk clerks  66%  47%  17%  21% 
Maids and housekeepers in traveler accommodations  88%  77%  21%  45% 
Source: NWLC calculations based on U.S. Census Bureau, 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) using IPUMS. Men and women self-identify their race and sex in the ACS. 

Women experience gender wage gap in nearly every occupationincluding low– and high-wage jobs. And the over-representation of women and women of color in these low-paid jobs means women on the frontlines of COVID19 defense are being consistently undervalued as they do the work that the rest of the country is depending on as never before.  

For instance, women who work as home health and personal care aides are losing $417 per month due to the gender wage gap. Conversely, the women and women of color on the frontlines of COVID-19 job loss not only are getting hit by the economic impacts of the pandemic, but also are less able to absorb those costs because they have lost earnings due to the gender wage gap. Waitresses, for instance, have typically lost $500 per month to the gender wage gap 

Front line work
Women’s median annual earnings Men’s median annual earnings Amount a woman typically makes for every dollar a man typically makes Annual difference between men’s and women’s median earnings Monthly difference between men’s and women’s median earnings
Grocery store cashiers/salespeople  $24,000  $ 27,000 89%  $3,000  $250
Home health and personal care aides  $ 25,000  $30,000 83%  $5,000  $417
Child care workers  $22,000  $27,000 81%  $5,000  $417
Registered nurses  $65,000  $71,000 92%  $6,000  $500
Industries shedding workers
Women’s median annual earnings Men’s median annual earnings Amount a woman typically makes for every dollar a man typically makes Annual difference between men’s and women’s median earnings Monthly difference between men’s and women’s median earnings
Waiters and waitresses  $22,000  $28,000 79%  $6,000  $500
Clothing/shoe stores cashiers/salespeople  $25,000  $28,000 89%  $3,000  $250
Hotel, motel desk clerks  $24,000  $25,000 96%  $1,000  $83
Maids and housekeepers in traveler accomodations  $23,000  $28,600 80%  $5,600  $467
Source: NWLC calculations based on U.S. Census Bureau, 2018 American Community Survey (ACS) using IPUMS. Median annual earnings are for full time, year round workers. Men and women self-identify their sex in the ACS.

 

Women of color are especially harmed by the gender wage gap, leaving them in a precarious position in the current crisis. Black women are shortchanged $1962 per month by the gender wage gap compared to white, non-Hispanic men (which adds up to a loss of $941,600 over a 40year career); for Latinas it’s $2336 per month (for a loss of $1,121,440 over a 40-year career).  

Those lost earnings take on new meaning in the current crisis, as they leave women of color in particular with no financial cushion to deal with job lossin the face of high costs for emergency health care and medicationrent or mortgages, rising prices for supplies or food, and other expenses exacerbated by this global health crisis. 

The unfolding impacts of COVID-19 reveal just how many communities of women, and the families that depend on their earnings, are bearing the brunt of the longstanding gaps and underinvestment in our workplace laws, economic and social infrastructure, and policy choices that failed to center the needs of women, people of color, and families with low and moderate incomes. 

We need both immediate responses and longer term structural changes to our laws and economic infrastructure to address the impacts of this pandemic and ensure that it does not entrench and deepen gender inequityincluding: 

  • Providing emergency cash assistance for people with low incomes who won’t be reached by unemployment or tax relief until it’s too late. 
  • Providing significant investments in child care funding to help providers and families. 
  • Strengthening unemployment insurance to reach more workers and adopting stronger triggers so that the program can automatically respond to increased hardship 
  • Expanding emergency paid sick time and family and medical leave protections to protect all working people by eliminating exemptions for large employers and ensuring that nonprofits can be reimbursed for emergency benefits—and enacting forward-looking provisions to ensure that these critical benefits are available to everyone outside of the circumstances of a public health emergency. 
  • Ensuring health care, including reproductive health care, is available and affordable to all. 
  • Requiring businesses receiving bailouts to protect their workforce against layoffs and provide decent wages to their workers. 

Women and the families who depend on their income have been shortchanged by the gender wage gap for far too long, and they can’t afford to wait any longer for change during this unprecedented public health and economic crisis 

Take Action Donate
facebook twitter instagram search paper-plane